October 26, 2012 by Editorial Board
With Drexel being one of the top 10 most expensive colleges in the country according to CampusGrotto.com, it would come as a surprise to no one that our students are getting into massive amounts of debt. In fact, according to the Institute for College Access & Success, 73 percent of Drexel students graduate with some debt.
The average amount of debt per graduate is unknown because Drexel has not disclosed this key information, along with 54.5 percent of other colleges and universities in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. And yet, from the data that was reported, Pennsylvania students graduate with the second-highest average amount of debt in the country with $29,959 (No. 1 is New Hampshire with $32,440).
This brings in the larger questions of transparency in higher education. Students are asked to mortgage their future with nondischargeable loans while colleges can raise tuition at will and don’t have to post employment statistics for various programs or tell students what the average debt load is like.
There are no federal laws that compel colleges and universities to disclose this data, so they are not doing anything wrong by not listing the statistics — but it is distasteful that a school known for being expensive would not disclose key information like this so that students can make informed decisions.
Perhaps even more unethical than the withholding of financial data is the misleading advertising of Drexel’s co-op program. University advertising proudly proclaims that students can earn an average of $15,808 per six-month co-op and that only a small percentage of students get unpaid co-ops. Most informational materials provided to new and prospective students keep mum about the fact that many, and in some cases nearly all, co-ops in certain majors are unpaid.
Even in majors for which paid co-ops are plentiful, it can be extremely difficult to get a paid job offer without a strong resume, which many students don’t have when they arrive here as freshmen. Prospective students need to be aware of this so they don’t come here under the assumption that co-op income will definitely take care of a significant portion of their student loan debt. Information published by the admissions office needs to be much more upfront and specific about the chances of getting a paid co-op in any given major and about the skills and experiences that students need to succeed in the extremely competitive application process for paid co-op positions.